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September 27, 2018 9:01 am

Tolerance and Dialogue — Not Anti-Israel Hate — Is Needed on Campus

avatar by Avraham Spraragen

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Cornell University. Photo: Wiki Commons.

“Ethnic cleansing, destruction, mass expulsion, apartheid, and death.” What unspeakable horror could this be describing? The answer: Zionism. This is according to National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP), a self-described “social justice movement” that opposes “discrimination of any form.”

But does singling out and woefully mischaracterizing the Zionist project — thereby sowing discord between Israelis and Palestinians — not constitute discrimination?

With this definition of Zionism on its “2018 Conference Theme & Goals” webpage, NSJP invites college students around the country to partake in a three-day conference, hosted by UCLA, that blatantly discriminates against the Jewish state. I encourage students at my school — Cornell — to reject this message of intolerance in favor of civil discourse that advances harmony on our campus and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rather than seek mutual understanding between the two parties, the 8th annual NSJP Conference on November 16-18, 2018, will instill in students that Israel “can be destroyed … broken down and dismantled.” Workshops will promote the de-normalization of Israel, to be achieved by refusing to engage in dialogue with Zionist students.

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Meaningful disputation is a pillar of academia, and a key to resolving conflicts; its rejection by NSJP runs contrary to the principles of Cornell University, and stymies Israel-Palestinian diplomatic negotiations. The third goal of the NSJP Conference is to help students “make strides in campus BDS” — the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Again, not only does the global BDS movement single out Israel for discrimination, but it also flies in the face of productive discussion in the classroom and at the negotiating table. The pinnacle of irony is that the NSJP Conference is a by-students-for-students event, to be held on a university campus, yet it endorses the tactic of academic boycott — targeting Israeli scholars and educational institutions.

On these grounds alone, I would encourage Cornell students to refrain from participating in this divisive program. Regretfully, however, the obstruction of the free exchange of ideas is not the only transgression committed by NSJP and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters on college campuses nationwide. “Jewish students on campuses across the United States have been victimized by anti-Semitic vandalism, verbal attacks, and outright violence at the hands of SJP members,” according to a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report.

Indeed, AMCHA Initiative studies demonstrate that there is a direct correlation between SJP presence and campus antisemitism. SJP — a subsidiary of American Muslims for Palestine, an organization with ties to the Hamas terrorist group — is “making Jewish students feel unsafe,” as per a Brandeis University student’s account.

Recent evidence of SJP transgressions came in the form of a threat posted on Facebook over the summer. Stanford University student Hamzeh Daoud, a member of Stanford SJP, wrote of his determination to “physically fight” Zionists on campus, calling Israel an “ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.”

Rather than denouncing this discriminatory behavior, the NSJP Conference intends to support the perpetrators. As an academic community, we must uphold the principle of words over weapons. In this effort, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) started the petition, “Deny Students for Justice in Palestine the Ground to Spread Anti-Semitism.” To choose words over weapons, I urge you to sign the petition, which calls for UCLA to reconsider being a platform for “racism, lies, intimidation, and bigotry.”

Instead of succumbing to NSJP polarization, those that are genuinely invested in a peaceful resolution to the conflict should express their grievances in a collaborative setting. We should strive to better understand the merits of each other’s positions and respectfully challenge them. It is our highest duty to be tolerant and willing to compromise so that a lasting peace, from Ithaca to Jerusalem, may finally be achieved.

Avraham Spraragen is a 2018-19 CAMERA Fellow. He is currently majoring in Government with a double minor in Near Eastern Studies and History at Cornell University.

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